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Christi R. Suzanne’s piece “Whispers” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 23, out now.
What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?
I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but lived there for maybe two years so I don’t remember that. My main connection is my parents who grew up in a small town called Napoleon, Ohio off the Maumee River. We, including my older sister, visited every other summer and got to take trips to Cedar Point with my Aunt and Uncle and cousins. That was the best! We also took our uncle’s boat down the river and visited the local Frosty Boy for some ice cream. We still go back every few years. My most recent visit was just a few months ago for my grandpa’s 95th birthday.
What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?
I always found the opportunity to explore a type of nature that was so different from where I grew up in Arizona compelling. I was always scared of it because it seemed like so much was hiding. In the desert it’s pretty flat and the saguaros or prickly pears can’t hide much. It felt dangerous in Ohio to eat berries off the vine when my grandmother or dad took us on walks. Once I told my grandma I felt sick after eating some really good berries. I felt like I ate poison! She laughed at me. I guess I was a city kid from my time in Arizona.
How do your experiences or memories of specific places — such as where you grew up, or a place you’ve visited that you can’t get out of your head — play a role in your writing?
Definitely, Napoleon, Ohio. It’s a place that holds a lot of secrets and a lot of memories for me. I always wanted to know more about the place where my parents grew up. Sometimes to see if it was better than my experience and sometimes because I wanted to know how they came to be the people they are. I have always been curious about origins and how we as humans become who we are. This is great for creative non-fiction.
Ohio is a place that has some really cool old buildings and abandoned farmhouses or barns. There are tons of settings that lend nicely to imagination for my fiction.
I also love Cedar Pointe in Sandusky, Ohio. My aunt and uncle and cousins brought my sister and I along a few times and it was amazing. I’ve used that setting at least once in my writing recently.
I could go on, but I’ll spare you.
Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.
Generally, I am inspired by some real or imagined event. I also tend to ask a lot of why questions. Like why would someone want to buy a skull from a curiosities store? or what if you thought you saw a crime from atop a ferris wheel? I start with a question and go from there.
As far as ideal environments go I write best in the morning with a cup of coffee. I have a full time job so I mostly write only on weekends, which is unfortunate for my husband who rarely gets to go out to brunch with me, unless it’s after noon, and then you can’t really call that brunch.
Writer’s block? I guess I write through it or think through it. I do a lot of simmering when I’m having trouble with writing. I walk with my dog and let my mind wander a bit. If that doesn’t seem to be working I talk to some of my writer friends or my husband. A good talking it out session usually helps.
How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?
Sometimes I can’t. However, when I can, I feel something like extra synapses have connected in my brain or some kind of stretching in that area. I think it’s because I was able to convey something the way I wanted to. I feel excited by the prospect that the piece has meaning beyond me and my process and I often get a sense of satisfaction that feels like a sponge sucking up water, maybe that’s the feeling of growing as a writer.
Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?
I’ve always loved Margaret Atwood, but I would also add Octavia Butler and Banana Yoshimoto as well as Yukio Mishima. Other authors include, Roxane Gay (I was blown away by her book Untamed State) and Yoko Ogawa. Oh, there are too many. I like the raw emotion that these authors convey as well as the social and/or cultural implications they often bring to light in their writing.
What’s next for you?
I have a work in progress, a novel, my second long form endeavor. My first has yet to be published, but I’m working on a new project and other short creative non-fiction and fiction pieces as well.
Where can we find more information about you?
www.christi-r-suzanne.com or @christirsuzanne.